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New Zealand 2006

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New Zealand 2006 - Page Text Content


1: New Zealand November 2006

2: Our trip started out on Thanksgiving evening as we left Los Angeles and flew through the night, arriving in Auckland first thing Saturday morning. Although our room wasn’t ready so early, the host of our bed & breakfast invited us to drop our bags off and take a hot shower. That was just what we needed to get through the jet-lag and try to acclimate ourselves to the new time zone – in fact we had just crossed the International Date Line and Friday didn’t even exist for us! We explored the city of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, and found it to be fairly typical of a big city. We were however amazed at how clean everything is, especially the beautiful harbors surrounding the city. Auckland was also windy which makes for all the great sailing they enjoy. The next day we headed out of the city and around the scenic coastal road of the Coromandel Peninsula. For most of the day we drove along the water which was a beautiful aqua blue, then headed across the peninsula through Kauri forests – the Kauri is a massive native tree that has been logged almost to extinction except in a few areas. | Auckland

3: Poi Kapua - the world's tallest Maori carving | Skytower - Auckland

4: The Cormandel Peninsula and a giant native Kauri tree near Whitianga, North Island

5: Our next stop was Hamilton which is in the heart of the dairy farming area. We stayed in Hamilton for two nights and from there we took a day trip to Otorohanga and the Waitomo Caves. In Otorohanga you can see kiwis, a nocturnal bird, in an enclosure that reverses day & night. Just beyond Otorohanga are the Waitomo Caves and underground rivers. We joined up with a “Black Water Rafting” tour that outfits you in a wetsuit and takes you underground where you float down the river on an inner-tube with only a headlamp to guide you along, dropping over subterranean waterfalls and passing stalactites and stalagmites. Occasionally the guide would ask us to turn off our headlamps and as our eyes adjusted to the pitch black we found it wasn’t completely dark – millions of glowworms hanging from the cave ceilings illuminated this eerie world. | Hamilton and Otorohanga - Waitomo Caves | Underground on the Black Labryrinth - Waitomo Caves, North Island

6: Getting ready to tube the underground caves - Black Water Cave Tubing Waitomo, North Island | Practicing the backwards drop over a waterfall

8: The next day we met up with one of Gavin’s childhood friends who immigrated to New Zealand with his family several years ago. David and Tracy, along with their children Wade and Megan joined us for the day in Rotorua – one of New Zealand geo thermal hot-spots. We took a gondola up a hill where we had a great view of Lake Rotorua and the opportunity to try the Luge. Basically a go-cart that you can take down the hill via a choice of winding tracks. It was great fun! We then toured around the town where we visited a Maori settlement with steaming street drains. Rotorua can often smell like rotten eggs because of the sulphuric thermal activity, but we were fortunate that the wind wasn’t blowing that way! After we said goodbye to David and his family we checked into a farm stay for the night, where we got our first up close encounter with New Zealand sheep and other farm animals. | Rotorua | Skyline Luge | David & Gavin on the Skyline Gondola | David, Tracy, Gavin, Megan & Wade - Tirau | Tamatekapua Marae (Meeting House) in formal Maori settlement of Ohinemutu

9: Baaaa....Baaaa - Westminster Farm Stay, Rotorua | Curious Natives

10: In the evening we attended a Maori cultural performance. We were guided through the forest where the Maori warriors in traditional dress paddled a “waka” – ancient warrior canoe, then led to a covered clearing in the forest where we learned about the culture, the tattoo art and experienced traditional dances and the famous Haka – a warrior posture dance used to intimidate their enemy by showing the whites of the eyes and poking out tongues and a wide variety of body actions including slapping the hands against the body and stamping feet. We concluded the evening with a traditional hangi meal cooked in the ground and a moonlight stroll through the forest to see glowworms in the springs. Before departing Rotorua the next day we visited Wai-o-Tapu – a thermal park covered with erupting geysers, volcanic craters, boiling pools of mud, water and steaming vents, colorful silica terraces and sulphur mounds. It felt like we were on another planet. | Hangi Feast (cooked underground) at Mitai Village - Rotorua, North Island

11: Maori Cultural Performance at Mitai Village, Rotorua

12: Lady Knox Geyser at Wai-o-tapu Thermal Park, Rotorua | Primrose Terrace at Wai-o-tapu Thermal Park, Rotorua

13: Champagne Pool | Wai-o-tapu Thermal Park, Rotorua | Devil's Bath

14: Leaving the odors behind we headed south into Hawkes Bay and the wine regions of Martinborough. On a sunny, but very windy day we set out to visit Cape Kidnapper’s, the largest mainland nesting place of gannets in the world. The colony of over 20,000 gannets, a seabird with distinctive eye markings and a pale yellow head, was located on the edge of a cliff. These birds were completely unafraid of humans so we had a unique opportunity to sit among them and watch them preen, dance and nest with their young chicks. In the air above us the birds floated on wind currents right before our eyes. | Wine Country & Cape Kidnapper's | Craggy Range Vineyard - Havelock North, North Island

15: Huka Falls, Endsleigh Cottage B & B in Havelock North, Red Hot Poker Flower

16: Cape Kidnapper's Gannet Colony - North Island

17: Cape Kidnapper's Gannet Colony - North Island

18: Sheep Station at Cape Kidnapper's

19: Our last stop on the North island was Wellington, the capital city. Wellington is spread out along the hills and coastline, similar to San Francisco. One of the highlights was a visit to the national museum, Te Papa. This wonderfully interactive museum portrays the stories of the people, land and history of New Zealand. We traveled to the South island via a 3 hour ferry crossing which brought us through the pristine waters of the Marlborough Sounds. Arriving in Picton we visited a seahorse aquarium and took a scenic drive along the winding roads of the Queen Charlotte Track – a famous destination for “tramping” – the New Zealand term for hiking. That afternoon we visited several wineries in the Marlborough where Ria tasted and Gavin drove - a perfect arrangement! | Wellington & Marlborough Sounds | Shores around Wellington | Along the Queen Charlotte Track - Marlborough Sounds, South Island

20: The next day found us donning wetsuits again as we took a small boat about 45 minutes off the coast of Kaikoura. These waters are the year-round home for the Dusky Dolphin, one of the most acrobatic members of the dolphin species. We braved the extremely chilly waters for the amazing experience of swimming amongst pods of these beautiful creatures. We were encouraged to be social and communicate with clicks and whistles while performing for them by diving and spinning in the water. We were their entertainment.not the other way around! Once back on the boat, the dolphins returned the favor. Literally hundreds delighted us with their spectacular leaps, side-slaps, somersaults and spins. It was hard to know where to point the camera to catch the next bout of aerial activity! | Kaikoura | Cold water, but so worth it to get up close to the dolphins | Dolphin Acrobatics- Kaikoura, South Island

22: As we continued South we began to encounter more sheep than people. The quiet town of Hamner Springs was our next stop, where we soaked in the natural mineral pools of varying temperature and enjoyed the peacefulness of the alpine environment. We continued on to the Southern Alps, the home to Mt. Cook, Mt. Tasman and the Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers. We had pre-booked a heli-hike tour of Fox Glacier, but when we arrived the forecast wasn’t ideal for the trip. The guides held us off until the last minute and finally made the call that there had been some clearing of the low cloud on the glacier. We were so fortunate, as the previous 3 trips had been canceled due to weather. We were taken by helicopter up the glacier, landing on the ice, then fitted with crampons on our feet. We spent the next two hours peering into bottomless crevasses, squeezing through ice tunnels, and hiking our way along the solid ice which is one thousand feet deep and moves at about 5 feet a day! Before we knew it, the helicopter was back to pick us up, however we would have liked to stay longer in this icy wonderland! | Southern Alps | Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman - Fox Glacier Town, South Island | The Southern Alps reflected in Lake Matheson, South Island

23: Heli-Hike Tour - Fox Glacier, South Island

26: The following day we dropped off our rental car on the west coast town of Greymouth and boarded the Tranzalpine train to the east coast city of Christchurch. Travelling through the snow-capped mountain passes and winding through the spectacular gorges and viaducts along the ice-fed Waimakariri River we eventually descended onto the farmland of the Canterbury Plains and into Christchurch. The largest city on the South island, Christchurch is the most English and its British roots are reflected in the manicured gardens, the Victorian estate of Mona Vale, the Anglican cathedral rising above the city square and the willowed banks of the Avon river, which winds its way through the city center. We spent our final days in New Zealand exploring this charming town. We enjoyed the experience of punting on the Avon river – an Edwardian pastime where a person with a large pole pushes a flat bottomed boat or “punt” along the water while we relaxed among the cushions, enjoyed the view and fed the ducks. We also sampled some delicious green lipped mussels which originate in NZ. It was difficult to leave New Zealand but we will definitely be planning future trips as it was one of our best vacations ever – beautiful country filled with warm friendly people, good value for your money and lots of amazing things to see and do! | Christchurch | Rose gardens at Mona Vale, Christchurch | Avon River - Christchurch, South Island

27: Christchurch Cathedral

28: Punting on the Avon River, Christchurch | Punter's Jackets - Antigua Boat Sheds, Christchurch

29: Relaxing on the Avon River, Christchurch | Feeding the greedy ducks along the Avon River

30: Before heading home we made a two day stop in Brisbane, Australia for a brief visit to see Gavin’s sister Carol, her husband Robert and sons Ross & Matthew. The Dubery family moved to Australia in 2006, so we felt it would be a shame not to pop-in when we were so close. We saw Brisbane in a unique and fun way – from a high speed Catamaran that runs on the river through the city. The Dubery’s also took us to see the Australian Outback Spectacular – a dinner show that captures the outback experience by staging a competition between stockmen on rival cattle/sheep stations. Magnificent horses, stampeding cattle and bush vehicles, including a helicopter entertained us while we dined on traditional Aussie “Tucker.” It was a short but fun visit. Next time we will have to see more of Australia! | Brisbane, Australia | Gavin's sister Carol with her husband Robert and sons Ross & Matthew - Brisbane, Australia

31: Downtown Brisbane, Australia | At the Australian Outback Spectacular - Brisbane

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Ria Waugh
  • By: Ria W.
  • Joined: over 11 years ago
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  • Title: New Zealand 2006
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  • Published: almost 9 years ago